NORFOLK, Va. -- The first commanding officer of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) visited the ship with dozens of children from Virginia Sept. 24, to tour Lincoln and launch model rockets from a Norfolk Naval Station softball field.
Now the head of a local nonprofit organization, retired Rear Adm. Bill Hayden, led the students on a tour of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, which included stops in various spaces aboard the carrier, including the flight deck, bridge, forecastle and fantail.
"It was an amazing experience for the children because they were exposed to real-life applications of math and science," said Hayden. "The visit not only sparked more curiosity, but also gave the children pride and respect for those who serve in the military."
After seeing the ship, they traveled to the nearby field to launch rockets built using the skills they developed at Starbase Victory, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) pathway program for fourth through sixth graders from Portsmouth, Va. public schools.
Following the rocket launch, the group returned to the ship to enjoy lunch in the ship's forecastle.
"Seeing all of the neat equipment in the ship made me want to understand how all of it works," said participant Taihuannia Woodard, though she admitted the tour took a backseat to the highlight of the afternoon, the rocket launch.
"Building the rocket was my favorite part of the program," she said. "I got to understand how all of the parts fit together to create something that works."
Capt. Karl O. Thomas, Lincoln's commanding officer, accompanied the group throughout the tour and rocket launch. He said the tour was an important opportunity to expose local youth to some military technology.
"It gives them a chance to see what is possible with math and science, and a chance to inspire them to create new technology," Thomas said.
Abraham Lincoln arrived in Norfolk, Aug. 7, following an eight-month change of homeport deployment that brought her to Virginia from Naval Station Everett, Wash., her home since January 1997. Over the next four years, Lincoln will undergo a refueling complex overhaul in Newport News, Va.